After building a name for herself in the Rochester music scene the past decade, singer-songwriter Cammy Enaharo immerses listeners into her intimate and spiritual world on her new EP, Hard to Look At. The new self-released EP finds Enaharo at her most compositionally rich and emotionally potent. We recently caught up with Enaharo who shares her insights on the wider themes of Hard to Look At and how she leaned further into her solo career working with producer Noah Almekinder.
It's been close to three years since we last heard from the Rochester-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Cammy Enaharo. While busy recording music with her other projects including Gold Koa and Ben Morey and The Eyes, Enaharo recently unveiled her new EP, Hard to Look At. Produced and mixed by Noah Almekinder, who's worked in the past with Clibbus, Aweful Kanawful, and The Temptators, and mastered by Justin Perkins Mystery Room Mastering, Enaharo worked on the new EP when she returned to Rochester after a brief stint in Los Angeles. During the sessions, she worked with several musicians including: Jared Tinkham, Alex "Beefus" D'Aurelio, Sean Donnelly, Gary Lamaar, Kiel Feher, Ryder Eaton, Willa Finck, and Katie Knudsvig. While Almekinder has been known in Rochester as the scene's go-to producer for oddball punk releases, Enaharo said he pushed her outside of her comfort zone, eschewing the gentle folk-pop she's best known and doubling down on her minimal folk-adorned arrangements. Across the eight-track EP of introspective folk songs, Enaharo is equipped with her familiar rich, soulful vocal tones, galloping beats and of course her baritone ukulele instrumentation, while infusing her vividly warm and emotionally harrowing storytelling with lyrics that paint an intimate moment in her life.
We recently caught up with Enaharo who shares her insights on the wider themes of her new EP and how she leaned further into her solo career working with Almekinder.
Paperface Zine: Hey Cammy, congrats on this new EP! Tell me, what have you been up to since you finished recording it?
Cammy Enharo: Yo Joe thankee! I've been trying out new things with music collaborations and day jobs. Recording at home for other people's projects has been really cool too. It's a very new experience for me that I would like to explore more. I'm also getting into video editing in DaVinci Resolve. I'm so green but really enjoying putting footage together for music videos. Plus its free.
I know you've done a couple solo records over the years, but how was the experience different with Hard to Look At compared to releases you've done with Dessert, Gold Koa and most recently, Ben Morey and the Eyes? Noah Almekinder and I transformed these songs together. The original demos I showed him were made inside a fort in my mum's basement with a loud furnace hum, timid first vocal takes, some baritone uke, piano, and an omnichord. We spent a whole lot of time tracking at his house to make sure every layer felt right. It was not long after we were all stuck at home, so we had months to understand how to work together and what we were going for. By the time he started mixing he could basically read my mind I think.
You mentioned when recording the new EP that producer Noah influenced your recording techniques and pushed you out of your comfort zone. When did you begin recording it and what were the sessions like? Also what did you initially envision for this EP?
Well working with Noah actually changed my life. He helped me see that each song doesn't necessarily have to sound like me and my baritone ukulele all the time. That trusting my own ideas outside my comfort zone is important. I was at his house multiple times a week starting in early December of 2020. We usually started in the morning, sat with his dogs, made a plan for the day, tracked and listened, took a break to eat, walked his dogs, and on the walk, we'd make a plan for the next day. It was so productive, but we were chillin hard after too. He knows his gear and is very creative so everything he used got the job done well. We talked through headphones in separate rooms between takes so I could make all the weird movements and I don't usually like people to see when tracking bari. Each session was very comfortable for me. I felt supported and completely understood. I wanted the EP to feel like an emotional roller coaster that brings you back to a hopeful reality. I think we did that.
Since this EP became so collaborative, did the recording feel limitless with the wide-range of musicians who play on it? Noah and I had a pretty solid vision for some parts and were also reaching out for more insight. Everyone involved was so helpful and the absolute bomb! Gary Lamaar played some drum parts and helped brainstorm on keys. Ryder Eaton played upright and some electric bass. Willa Finck and Katie Knudsvig played strings. Jared Tinkham played classical guitar and also helped brainstorm on keys. Beef played an acoustic guitar that was tuned like a mandocello. Sean Donnelly played electric guitar. Noah played some synth, guitar, bass and Kiel Feher played drums as well! Everyone involved made each song what it is. It's a ride through different levels of intensity with sounds that bring feelings to the table I wouldn't know how to express in the past.
Were there any songs on this release that turned out way different than their initial idea? Were there any that really surprised you? "Real Love" and "When You Call" are so different from the original demo versions. "Real Love" was originally going to be a Gold Koa song and had a completely different mood and pace to begin with. We started from scratch a few times to get to what it is now. Noah came up with that melody with the harmonic pluck sound one day on "When You Call" and the beat swooped in so nicely. I actually cried because I never envisioned one of my songs sounding like that. It's so my team now!
Those two tracks in particular really enriched your confessional and vivid storytelling. What inspired the songwriting on the new EP and how did its original ideas develop into songs? Right before the pandemic I decided to move to Los Angeles to start a new chapter living with the other members of Gold Koa. Everything was coming together beautifully and I was ready to leave Rochester for the first time to pursue that project. The pandemic was like Haha no! You're gonna live in your mum's basement in Rochester instead. That's when all the songs were written. In a wave of feeling lost, scared, inspired, and trying to kick the feeling that I failed somehow.
What are you hoping listeners take away from this release? Are there any lyrical themes attached in the songwriting?
I realized while making this with Noah that I hold myself back from things I want in life because I feel like I don't deserve them. That's not the reality and I'm working through that. I'd like for folks who are feeling lost and confused to know we're in the same boat. Let's just keep making stuff and working through it.
I really love the canvas-filling brush strokes you used for the cover art of the EP and singles. What was your reason in designing the cover art yourself and how do you personally think it relates to the music?
I'm really enjoying mixing colors and painting people who kind oflook like me haha. The cover felt like an honest visual representation of the front of my mum's house with me just plopped there out of place.
Will this new EP lead to a bigger project where you're reunited with Noah?
I sure hope so! We work really well together and we've talked about doing more. He's really busy on the road touring with the big leagues! His creativity, work ethic and determination makes him unstoppable.
What was it like living in Los Angeles for a short while before you moved back to Rochester due to the pandemic? It was wonderful living with Matt [Battle] and Ku [Kamara Robideau] of Gold Koa. We would practice at the space and then go home and have dinner together. I don't know if Los Angeles is completely my team, but I saw some incredible shows and met some really talented and interesting people. Gold Koa is something special to me and I'm excited to share what we've been working on from a distance.
I know you played a couple shows in the last few months, particularly the mini-music festival Smokestacks back in August. What was it like playing that show especially when live music was just returning at the time. Also do you have any shows coming up? I'm exploring new sounds for live shows. It's exciting for me and a work in progress for sure. My nerves got the best of me while playing at Smokestacks ,but I enjoyed the rest of the show and made a few friends. Don't get me wrong, I'm very thirsty to play again! As of now the next show is in June, but others will find their way before then.
Aside from the new EP, what else can we expect from you in 2022? I saw you contributed some backing vocals to Katie Morey's forthcoming album! Yes I'm so excited for her! Katie is an incredible songwriter and a great friend. Her first solo LP Friend of A Friend comes out very soon! I'm currently working on new songs with producer Sean Donnelly and Gold Koa has more in the works!
Hard to Look At is out now. Stream the new EP below.